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4 Ways to Tell Whether You're Having Complex Partial Seizures

By Livestrong Contributor ; Updated August 14, 2017

Auras Are Warning Signs

If you suffer from complex partial seizures, you will often be warned by a simple partial seizure or an aura. Similar to migraine auras, these mini-seizures often cause feelings of déjà vu, fear, elation or visual disturbances. While you may dismiss these symptoms at first, most people learn to recognize their auras and the impending complex partial episodes. It's helpful to discuss your personal aura indicators with family and friends, so they understand what is happening and can help keep you safe when a seizure begins.

Zoning Out May Be Abnormal

Complex seizures usually begin in the temporal or frontal lobe of the brain, affecting the neurological controls for responsiveness and mental presence rather than causing convulsions. It is typical to lose consciousness and have a scared or dazed look during the seizure, though bystanders may think you're just daydreaming. You probably won't remember your episode, questions people asked you, or even the actions you exhibited during the seizure. Some people describe a feeling of vacancy after their auras, and they seem to lose time and experience short-term amnesia. Ask family members and friends to take careful symptom notes when they're with you, so you can provide physicians with a detailed description of your experience.

Consider Automatic, Repetitive Actions

Following impaired consciousness, complex partial seizures cause strange, tic-like movements called automatisms. You may smack your lips, chew or swallow repetitively, though you haven't been eating. Those around you may report a series of facial expressions, from terror to serenity, in a matter of moments. Laughing one moment and crying the next, you could be making repetitive movements with your arms and lower body, including offensive gestures and sexual imitations. Ambulatory symptoms can also occur, causing seizure patients to run away or wander aimlessly. Finally, it is not unusual to shout repeated phrases or swear at those around you, without even realizing that you're speaking. While these symptoms sound scary, they can help neurologists make a definitive diagnosis of complex partial seizures, so don't hide or discount them.

Take Note of Cognitive or Emotional Changes

Since complex partial seizures affect the limbic system, many people who have them report cognitive and behavioral changes over time. It is not uncommon for this seizure condition to be complicated by memory impairment, loss of humor, obsessiveness, anger, aggression or prolonged amnesia. If you or a family member begins experiencing changes in behavior or emotional status in addition to other seizure indicators, consult a neurologist for a thorough medical evaluation and recommended testing.

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